by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on May 5, 2005.
"I am very uncomfortable when the law is now going to dictate that I and my family may have to accept things that are an abomination in God's eyes." That's what State Sen. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction, told the Rocky Mountain News in opposition to a bill to prohibit discrimination against gays in hiring.
This prompted Senator Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, a Catholic, to rise and announce his son is gay. Tapia said, "I've grown to love him even more because of what he has had to go through... So don't be talking about abomination, because I don't believe that's true."
The Denver Post's Jim Spencer talked with Tapia and reported, "Too much of the hate comes in the name of a God the Democratic senator from Pueblo doesn't recognize. 'I was taught that Jesus was all about love, forgiveness and acceptance,' he said."
But there is one little problem with that theory. The Bible does say homosexuality is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 says (using Oxford's "revised standard" version): "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them."
Furthermore, The Oxford Companion to the Bible adds: "Ethical considerations such as consent, coercion, or the power imbalance inherent in adult-child relations are not legally relevant in these passages... Thus, regardless of the sexual relationship of the participants (a man and his consenting male partner, an adult male whom he had raped, or a child victim), all are equally culpable..."
But perhaps that's just the dated "Old" Testament. What does the kinder, gentler God of the New Testament have to say? In Romans 1: 26-27, Paul writes, "Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own person the due penalty for their error."
This is not equivocal language. Self-professed Christians, at least those who hold the Bible as the Word of God, who endorse, excuse, or encourage homosexuality are hypocrites. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is about as much tolerance toward gays that can be squeezed from the Bible.
A few weeks ago Westword ran a story about Benjamin Reynolds, a reverend from Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. He said, "Even I was not always sure, but now I am: Christ never addresses [homosexuality]. And it's not for me to decide if it's wrong... People look to Leviticus and say otherwise, but as I read and study these verses in their context, they have nothing to do with sexual orientation, but everything to do with abandoning God for other gods."
All the Biblical information about Jesus is second-hand; he didn't write anything by his own pen (at least that survives). On the other hand, Romans is a letter by Paul, "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle," that clearly condemns homosexuality. If you want to reject Paul as an authorized spokesperson for God, and by implication reject the Bible as the inspired Word of God, then openly admit that is your purpose. But don't try to tell me the Bible doesn't say what it clearly does say.
Westword notes that Reynolds invited one fellow to speak who apparently does reject the Bible as the literal Word of God. That speaker, Herndon Davis, "picks a Bible up off of the pulpit, throws it on the ground and jumps up and down on it, turning his foot to squash the book as if it were a bug."
Davis isn't the first religious person to step on Paul. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to [Jesus] the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."
But something interesting begins to happen if we dare "separate the gold from the dross." How are we to know what is the gold and what is the dross once we reject the notion that the Bible is the Word of God? If each individual may reject standard teachings of the Church and reach his or her own conclusions about what constitutes Christianity, then heresy is impossible and practically anything goes.
To recognize parts of the Bible as "dross," one must recognize ethical standards that are independent of religion, and one must see individuals as capable of grasping those standards without the aid of revealed truth. From that view it is but a short step to the outright rejection of religion.
A few centuries ago I probably would have been tortured and murdered by the Church for my blasphemous writings. Similarly, homosexuals have periodically been killed by followers of the Bible. Thankfully such barbarism rests in the past, and moral pronouncements have replaced violence. As the BBC notes, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, described homosexuality as a "tendency" to "intrinsic moral evil." Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Long before Ratzinger's time, that Congregation was called the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
You can accept the Bible and traditional Christian teachings, or you can accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, but you can't accept both. I regard as abominable not what Paul described, but what Paul wrote.